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About the Knowledge Base
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Testimonial: I have found that the new HDAA Knowledge Base reduces the time it takes me to research industry stats & reliable information for the ITSM sector. It’s easy to use search functionality encompassing KCS principles, helps to filter & tailor my searches more accurately & there are numerous new services now available through the website. Every time I return to the site there is new information published. Very impressive.
Chris Powderly, Support & Services Manager, Allens
continual service improvement , IT service management , ITSM , ITIL , KCS , KM , knowledge management , service management , supportworld
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Knowledge management (KM) is now one of the key processes in ITIL®, and the payoff of an effective KM process is huge. When fully implemented, a common KM system that is available to all stages in the services lifecycle improves decision making; reduces duplication of effort and rediscovery of knowledge; reduces costs; and empowers customers, users, and all of IT.
So why have so few IT service organizations been able to implement KM successfully? They lack a successful strategy to overcome the cultural barriers that stand in their way. A knowledge-driven culture is possible. With the right vision, strategies, and tactics, behavior can change and with it, the culture of a services organization. Let’s consider how six steps can help your organization overcome barriers to successful KM implementation.
Taking a tactical or operational approach, and not recognizing that implementing effective KM must be a strategic initiative, ignores the need for behavioral change. Implementing KM is one of those big changes that requires a well-thought-out organizational change plan, to change the organization’s culture over time as you implement the process.
To realize effective KM throughout an organization, all support groups should feel they have a “piece of the action.” All IT support managers and practitioners, from the frontline service desk to executive management, should feel as though they are contributors to, and beneficiaries of, the KM process. Use an organizational change model, such as Kotter’s 8-Step Process of organizational change, to guide and facilitate the shift to a knowledge-centered services organization over time. Follow these steps to guide your initiative to success:
Trying to implement KM as a short-term, tactical project would be a mistake. Instead, consider KM as an organization-wide process, requiring a service lifecycle approach to implementation. View KM as a process, not a tool or system—one that must be strategically initiated and adopted across teams in a cultural sense—so that sharing knowledge becomes an integral part of the work culture. KM becomes a way of working, but one that uses a tool and/or systems to capture, store, and effectively share knowledge. Follow the ITIL Service Lifecycle approach:
Traditional IT organizations are organized along technology lines. For example, there will generally be a set of technical management teams that provide planning, transition, and operation support for the technology infrastructure. An applications management group will support the applications that are a key part of services delivered to customers, providing support during design, transition, and operations. As a by-product of this organizational structure, supporting systems—including knowledge bases—are formed, also organized along these same organizational boundaries.
To overcome these KM silos, start with a compelling vision and mission that all groups can “buy into”; plan and deploy an initial and ongoing communications plan that will set the right expectations with all groups and continue to reinforce the value and benefits of the new KM approach; tear down barriers to participating in knowledge capture and submission, making it easy for all service and support groups to participate; make it an integral part of everyone’s job, from frontline support, to tier 2 support teams, to management; build it into your performance management and compensation program, so that people realize knowledge sharing is expected; and make it a part of being recognized and rewarded.
As service and support staff begin to see and experience how fundamental this is to their daily job, and when they begin to experience that it is actually working and making their jobs more productive and enjoyable, the barriers between the silos will fade, and they will begin to rally around the new approach. A new knowledge culture will gradually begin to take shape!
All too often, management mistakes KM as a tool or system, instead of an organization-wide process. This is a common phenomenon, since IT managers and practitioners typically have an implementation/support technology background. Compounding this problem, vendors want nothing more than to sell lots of KM tools, systems, and databases. But a KM tool will not produce a KM process. As discussed, start with a solid strategy. Then define and document the process, along with the appropriate tools and technology.
Once you’ve defined how KM will play an integral role in your core processes, pick the best systems and tools that fit your requirements. You might choose to use a Wiki to store shared information, or a database, or a collection of repositories. But without well-designed processes that provide a framework for the way people ought to do their work using knowledge, your tools and databases will soon go unused—and rapidly fall out of date. KM needs a process owner and manager, defined inputs and outputs, triggers to initiate the capturing and sharing of knowledge, defined metrics and measurements, supporting policies and procedures, and enabling people and technology.
Integrate your KM systems and tools into your processes so they are simple, fast, and effective. Google sets the bar when it comes to search, and your KM process should follow industry-leading examples. The search engine should allow for natural-language search, as well as search by phrase/keywords. The search engine—along with supporting databases—should be fully indexed to enable quick results sorted in relevance order. Attention should be paid to supporting structured as well as unstructured data in databases and linked repositories.
Don’t forget to establish a set of metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure, monitor, and report on the adoption and success of your KM initiative. People pay attention to things that are measured and reported. Set realistic targets for your core KM metrics, and make the reporting on KM part of your monthly management IT scorecard. This will raise the visibility of KM in everyone’s eyes, and also enable you to assess the growth, impact, and value of KM. Sample metrics might include:
Supporting systems and tools should support KM embedded in the workflow, so that a submission is a by-product of the work effort. For example, during incident management, a search should be automatically invoked after classifying the incident. Extra steps or navigation should not be required. A match report should return the most likely solutions/workarounds at the top of the list. If no solution is applicable, and the analyst ends up devising and documenting a new solution, submitting to the KM process should be just a few keystrokes.
Include an embedded QA sub-process to expedite solution review and processing. Once the submission has been made, direct these electronic records to an appropriate SME for that area of knowledge. SMEs might be technical or application management specialists in back-line support groups. They should have as a daily responsibility the review, editing, and approval of submitted KM articles, so these can be incorporated into the KM system in a timely fashion. This also ensures that knowledge added is accurate, complete, and published only to the proper audiences (for example, internal use only or user-ready).
Revise your service operations standard operating procedures (SOPs), such as incident management, request fulfillment, and problem management, to embed searching and contributing to the KM system. In this way, searching and contributing to your KM system does not become added steps, but is an integral part of the in-line mainstream workflow process. No extra steps required; roadblocks removed.
Revise your job descriptions and appraisal process so that contributing to the KM system is required by operations personnel, such as service desk staff and other IT support groups. For example, support staff might be required to contribute three KM articles per quarter. Periodic appraisals would reinforce the importance of participation.
Make the contribution to KM, and its use, an integral part of rewards and recognition. For example, no awards for outstanding performance should be given where the team member failed to meet his or her contribution requirement for the quarter.
Realizing that implementing KM is a strategic initiative, and must be planned, designed, and implemented using a lifecycle approach, results in an organization-wide process that literally transforms your culture and the way people work. Instead of having to think about how to search the knowledge base for a solution or an answer, service and support staff will just do that as a matter of carrying out their normal routine. Instead of having to consider how to submit an article to KM for sharing with others, the process will simply capture their knowledge as a by-product of the normal workflow. Benefits to the organization, support staff, customers, and users will be transformational, and you will never look back!
Paul is the president and principal consultant of Optimal Connections LLC. With more than 30 years of experience in planning and managing technology services, Paul has held numerous positions in both support and management for companies such as Motorola, FileNet, and QAD. He is also experienced in service desk infrastructure development, support center consolidation, deployment of web portals and knowledge management systems, as well as service marketing strategy and activities. Currently Paul delivers a variety of services to IT organizations, including Support Center Analyst and Manager training, ITIL Foundation and Intermediate level training, Best-Practice Assessments, Support Center Audits, and general IT consulting. His degrees include a BA and an MBA. Paul is certified in most ITIL Intermediate levels and is a certified ITIL Expert. He is also on the HDI Faculty and trains for ITpreneurs, Global Knowledge, Phoenix TS, and other training organizations. For more about Paul, please visit www.optimalconnections.com.
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